Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Some things don't change, but just go faster and faster

It's been a while, mostly because with other social media we are looking for the quick answer and the price of the quick answer is the not-so-great literary format. (Shorthand Twitter stuff and the like)
I tend to reflect as I write and try to carefully convey the issues often with multiple iterations and rewrites. Alas, this is not practical at the speed of today. I must learn to puke out what needs to be said quickly.
So here it is. Bell Cda Scks.
The customer service is crap.
The Sales people cannot get you a timely answer to anything
Orders take too long
They do dumb shit like charge you to tell you what you are paying for on a bill
Everything is an escalation
Upper Management is invisible
Left and Right do not communicate
Sales battles with Service Consultants
Consultant programs have no leverage in the organization
They make you wait on hold for an hour for repair and then disconnect the call and are unable to call you back.
The bills are wrong
The rates don't match the contracts signed and you cannot get it fixed anytime soon
Collections cuts off customers when a $300 bill hits 90 days but they don't try to reach you to see if you moved, the postal strike has delayed the bills etc.
They charge 42.56% per annun for Late Payment Fees (is this not illegal?)
Service offerings are smoke and mirrors - get what appears to be a good rate, but wait for it - the nickle and dime add-ons. They even pay the fines from the Government so they can keep on ripping us off.
I could go on, but you get the picture by now and I don't have any more time today to rant.
Bell Cda Scks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

BCE is for Sale - Don't ask for your money back.

One of the services we offer our clients is a Telecom Audit. Basically we look for billing errors, redundant services and wrongly rated services.

While you might think finding the error is the hard part - and it is - the reality is that getting the Telco to remove the error is as onerous a task as finding it.

They will fight you tooth and nail to the bitter end. And Lord help you if you should scrape together any evidence they messed up and you actually asked them to remove it at some point in the past and are looking for a credit!

Credit indeed. According to Bell Canada's Article 19 of the Terms of Service, Bell has to credit the client back to the date of the error including any paid taxes AND interest. No wonder Bell is jamming the CRTC to get all their services foreborne - maybe then they won't need to adhere to any rules at all?

I think this is going to be a bad thing for customers in the end. There really is not a viable competition out there for many services. At best its an oligarchy.

Getting any money back from Bell Canada these days is pretty much going to be a long fight. Since they are tentatively SOLD - they do not want to compromise their short term revenues whatsoever - even if that means damaging the long term relationship of a client.

I have never been so mistreated as a client (designated agent for our customer to Bell) in all my career. It's a wonder they can keep any clients. Perhaps it has more to do with the lack of options rather than any semblance of good service for a fair price.

Speaking of good service; we have a trial running with a couple of our clients on Bell's new Select Service. This is supposed to be a premium service you pay Bell for to get the service you already expect from Bell by paying their already premium prices (and then paying again on top). In a nutshell, it is not creating the single point of contact that acts as the customer advocate for all requirements sales and/or repair (as it should). Looks like a waste of money.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bell Canada - The bane of my existance

It's been a while yet again since my last post and much has changed. My personal life has gone topsy turvy and admittedly I got caught off guard.

The Telecom Consulting business on the other hand has been a good diversion and continues to "pay the bills". It seems, much to my fortune I suppose, that Carriers, Suppliers, etc. in this space can't seem to get it right.

Some are leading though and the ones that are understand its all about relationship, trust and honour. Let me expand.


Its not necessary to make friends with all your customers. Some you will click with, some you will just have a professional relationship with. The point is there has to be a relationship. If they call, you have to call them back. Plain and simple.


To cement the relationship, there has to be trust. Is this person taking me down the garden path for a ride or are they really doing something that is win-win? The client is looking for help. That help has to be correct for them, their business and their reputation with their superiors (and their customers).


What I mean here is respect, honesty, integrity and transparency. Give me the straight goods. Promise only what you can fulfill.

I am really pleased to say that we have evolved our business with many client past our original contracts because we continue to deliver. In the Telecom business its tough to satisfy - things are varied and complex. One statement that resonated and stuck with me was "Exceed expectations by meeting them". It's a tought gig but we try hard.

Now here is where I take another pot shot at Bell. They have actually managed to lower the bar and make it easier for other companies to "Exceed by meeting".

I'm thinking Bell has become one of the worst companies to work with. Period. They are disintegrating before our eyes with personnel and support cuts. Each department operates in silos and they apply their own flavour of the rules and regulations however they see fit. The annual sales upheaval means the account teams are short term focussed and we've encountered documented cases where the sales people have overcommitted clients on contracts, split the scene, and now the team left behind is left trying to dig in their heels to enforce a contract that is just plain ethically wrong.

If they do the right thing for the customer - they take a revenue hit. The last team got the win, the new team now does everything in their power to preserve the revenue. This even includes perpetually charging customers for services they don't need, don't have, or should have replaced with more contempory alternatives.

Bottom line, they can't and won't operate in the customer's best interest. This is a Management fault - high turnover, improper training, understaffing, and improper compensation models.

Every once in a while I talk to someone who just "get it" and they will get my business. For the rest - watch out - we are about to show our customers just how bad you are.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Billing Errors and Client Rights

Its been a while since I made a posting. Frankly I don't know who finds their way to my blog but in the past this space has been a vent of sorts for the daily frustration we as consultants have with the Carriers.

Bell Canada, being one the predominant Canadian monopolistic providers, of course draws a lot of ire and while this is not specifically about them, they are today's expample.

A sales manager friend of mine recently told me that one of my empassioned emails to him was a "good rant". I was recalling how easy it was and how quickly we were able to meet with a customer, sign a contract, issue (our own) paperwork, and negotiate with all the downstream departments in order to meet the required date of a service for a customer. I was "ranting" about the utter lunacy of trying to get something standard such as a T1 (1.54Mbps data channel) installed which today takes 3 weeks of constant badgering at Sales just to get the contracts whereas in yesteryear it would already have been in and working.

Alas, what happens when a customer buys and installs the aforementioned T1 to replace a slower and legacy 56Kbps circuit?

Well, as it turns out, Bell often forgets (rather conveniently) to remove the old circuit from billing. Despite efforts by the customer to have their billings explained by an ever-changing sales team (the Bell sales team revolving door was introduced at the same time with their cool new "spinning ring around the head" logo) the service continues to bill buried within the codes and cryptic USOC's (Universal Service Order Code) ad-infinitim.

Bell will say the onus is on the customer to identify the problem and will tend to hide behind the notion that the client is issued an Equipment Record at least once yearly. The problem with this is the Equipment Record gets buried with a bill that normally goes to accounting and not the Telecom Manager (if one even exists) and also normally these cannot be easily interpreted. (This is where we come in )

Alas, Article 19 of the General Tariff - Terms of Service, still protects clients somewhat when it comes to legacy tariffed services.

1) Clients are entitled to a credit back to date of the error
2) Clients are entitled for interest on the credit due to the error.

So, if the the error date can be identified as in my case above where Bell has sold a newer, faster and more expensive replacement service to replace the old service billing in error, then we have a chance.

They will still try to hide behind the "we sent you an Equipment Record" notion, however, the terms also stipulate when you lose your right for previous credits and that is 365 days after the item has been correctly billed. Correctly billed for this case would be ZERO dollars since the service should have been removed. So, if Bell had removed the item in question on their own accord the client loses the right to claim the error if they don't point out "hey you were overbilling me" within the time alloted. On the other hand, if they keep on billing you, you have the right to point it out and claim a credit all the way back to the error date, with interest, subject unfortuneately to the recently updated Statutes of Limitations as prescribed by Federal law.

You can get your money back. These cases can be drawn out and must be individually argued and as a business owner very time consuming. This is where we can help. As experts in Telecom, we know the angles, have the experience, and with us on your side you can still focus on the day-to-day things that keep you awake at night. I'm pitching again, but we fight your battle for you in a win-win situation.

Sorry Mr. Telecom Carrier, but it wasn't your money in the first place. Give it back!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

GO-SEE, Workflow tool that does not flow.

Q. How many Bell people does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. A whole bunch and none.

First you have to call 310-BELL and yell at EMILY. (She now has an increased vocabulary including several choice 4-letter words) Then you have to speak to an agent who is trained only to answer the phone and knows nothing about light-bulbs. They input your request into the "GO-SEE" system to get you a Sales Representative. Now if the sales rep is away , on course, on holidays, at a customer meeting, or screwing in other light bulbs you'll have to wait. Once you get your sales rep they will be out of the office and can't input the order back into "GO-SEE" so that the "SRC" rep never gets the request until later, much later. Then later, it's input and enters the queue where it gets reviewed sooner or later, expecially if they SRC person is away, on course, on holidays, at a customer meeting, or trying to get the sales rep to screw in the light bulb. Now if you thought the order was in, you are right and wrong. If the sales rep checks Go-SEE , they see it as "Completed" but wait, the order for the light bulb really hasn't gone to the Business Office person who has to enter the order into the system. And they might be away, on course, on holidays or trying to find out what kind of light bulb the sales rep was trying to screw in. So they send the request back to the "SRC" person who updates "GO-SEE". Later, much, much later, the sales rep, back from screwing in lightbulbs for all the escalated orders for the week, logs into "GO-SEE" to see that the order has questions and has to ask the customer about the light bulb again.

To which the client replies, "GO-AWAY" because another telecom company called whose staff actually talk to one another and they determined that it wasn't a light bulb that was needed in the first place.

Gimme a 1FL with a side order of LD and some ExpressVU to go - oh and hold the cell will ya, it gives me high blood pressure.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

When is DSL not DSL?

There really is no such thing as a level playing field for competitors who use Bell Canada's underlying infrastructure. Case in point - we recently tried to migrate a client from Bell to the other carrier's service. Bell has ADSL service in place today and to avoid down time we thought to order the new service on one of the other working lines in premise.

"Not DSL capable" is what came back. So we tried another. Ditto. And again... Ditto, Ditto, Ditto. So how come Bell managed to get 4M DSL working on this one lonely line? Answer: Bescause they wanted to and because they could.

Never mind trying to get Bell to re-provision an existing line to be DSL capable - they won't. (Why would they - for a competitor's service?). How about ordering a new line and requesting that it be DSL capable? In theory, this should work - but in practice it is really hit or miss (and usually miss unless you can actually get to talk to the installer on the day of the install). They either won't put the request on the orders or the provisioners can't read the orders. Perhaps training is an issue (see earlier Blog).

Bottom line - DSL is a "luck" service. If you get it, you are lucky. Otherwise, businesses will have to be content paying through the nose for dedicated T1 or higher facilities if they want a guarantee.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Who is training these people?

The face of Bell Canada has changed so much in recent years. With the downsizing and the loss of many veterans they seem to be running around like chickens without heads as well established processes break down and the *new* people just are not trained. Worse, the new guys think they know it all too - and that is the scary part. I'm sure we all were at one point gun-ho and thought the world was our oyster, but I'm pretty sure I respected the elders. Now, with no elders left there to respect that is probably part of the problem.

As an example a client and I called in last week to Bell's Business Internet High Speed (BIHS) to try to open a repair ticket since the client was having trouble doing so. We called in together, the answering party asked a gamut of questions about the set up of the service (which has been working fine for the last year up unitl now) and he *REFUSED* to open a ticket because the base cord from the jack on the wall to the Slipstream DSL modem was 15 feet rather than 9 feet. I just about hit the roof!

What possible difference would an additional 9 ft of 24 AWG RJ-11 ended grey flat cable make when the inside wiring was already 100 feet or more to the inside demarcation and the cable from there back to the Bell DSLAM was another 6000-10,000 feet. This 15 ft cable has not been an issue for the last year, so why now?

I escalated - and escalated some more. They looked into it. The problem was indeed oustide the building and was exposed and broken wiring at an outside pesdestal. But this did not stop one green technical support person from taking a shot at my claim that the extra 9 feet issue was asinine. He wanted to go into a 1 hour lecture on the electrical characteristics of wiring but would "spare me since that would be boring".

To their defense - they probably get a lot of people that really do not know what they are talking about. But - should they not give a listen and then decide?

But aha! - That might be customer service.

Strikes are bad news for Carriers and Customers

If you have live in Ontario, Canada right now and have had any dealings with your Telecom (either a request for new service or a repair issue) you may have noticed things are not what they ought to be.

Entourage, Bell's outsourced technicians for small business and residential services, have been in a labour dispute for a while now and the backlog is really causing havoc as regular Bell techs and managers try to cope.

And coping well - they are not. Long install times - 7 weeks for a basic business line (with 2x week complaints and escalations) and 30 days for repair of noisy lines seem to be the norm.

The issue here is that Bell, after having ditched their employees and leaving them little choice but to take an offer with Entourage for less money and benefits, is now trying to buy back the lower cost company. Looks good for Bell. Looks like sour milk for the techs.

See what competition does? Apparently we all wanted cheap LD rates and that is what started this. So now we have cheap LD rates and poor service and grumpy phone employees. What is worse?

Can we compare CD quality music to MP3's here? We had great sound with CD's - but now we want cheap (or free) music and are willing to sacrifice quality. OK for the car, but not my cup of tea.

I'm not sure we made progress on this front or the Telecom front. What are your comments?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

High Speed Internet at Family Resort

Wireless has made further inroads into making ubiquitous Internet access a reality. I sit here, actually while on vacation, in our condo at Smugglers' Notch Vermont completely attached to my working world. Is this a good thing? Is this a bad thing? Pundits would argue that we need the downtime to recharge our batteries and it would be better we were off-line.

The reality is probably somewhere in between. I have used the connection to see what's on in the Village, check the Cinema listings for a nearby theatre and had a quick check to see how my pin money has done in the stock market this past week.

The connection here was easy. Turn on the laptop, check out the available wireless networks on the 802.11 network, launch a browser and ta-da... I get the log-in greeting for the resort. Owners here get in for "free" since the cost is buried into the maintenance fee. Guests can subscribe for a day or a week for a nominal fee.

Connectivity is here, it's wireless, and it works all the way up the mountains where you wouldn't think much technology would be (but is).

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Long Distance - chump change (click here)

I hesitate to have the appearance of endorsing a particular vendor, but as a consultant I have to answer the question - "Is it any good?".

Now, I have not seen the billing, nor do I know if they keep track of the minutes accurately, but I do know that my calls went through and I could not detect anything inferior about the calls. Tried calling to Burlington, ON from Brantford and also to Florida from Brantford. All calls to Florida - at least this particular destination - seem to be low volume, so nothing to blame on the line it would seem - unless theirs is buried underwater or something!

So it works & while you do have to dial up the CIC code first before you make the call - it's cheap, shows up on your Bell bill, has no contract and no minimum.

Makes you wonder how the average major carrier customer does when they try to negotiate contracted rates for direct dial service?

As it turns out, usually not too well. Therefore, since telecom is not most companies core business, we think having a telecom expert scouring the market for you is a compelling offering.

Of course - that is what we do @ www.schooleymitchell.com/gha . Our aim is always to get our clients the best rates for the best and most convenient services based on their individual needs.

And, if you spend "chicken feed" and only make occassional calls, you can always try one of these dial-around services. If you don't like it, don't use it again. Simple enough!